Depending on how you want to look at it, our collective parents are either draining the NHS of vast proportions of its resources or keeping an awful lot of health professionals in gainful employment.
A get-together with friends will rarely get beyond the first drink before someone kicks in with “My Dad’s not too good again”. And then we’re off, comparing symptoms, care packages and treatment plans.
For the most part, our parents receive fantastic care from the NHS. But of course, things do sometimes go wrong, and if you’re making heavy use of the health service the chances that something will go wrong for you are obviously greater - particularly if you have complex needs requiring the input of numerous specialties.
So the other thing my friends and I have in common is that we have all, at some point, had to step in and insist that our parents receive a fundamental aspect of care, and that they receive it quickly. I’m not talking about anything out of the ordinary here, but a pressure-redistributing mattress, a diagnostic test or a side room in which to die peacefully.
We have all found it uncomfortable to assert ourselves, despite being generally confident and articulate - and having more knowledge of health and the healthcare system than the average citizen.
So while my friends and I quote stroke strategies and NICE guidelines to get the best for our parents, what happens to the patients whose families don’t know what they should be insisting on, or who don’t have any relatives?
The only thing that ensures frail, undemanding and rarely visited patients getwhat they need is the presence of a skilful and compassionate nursing team that is willing and able to take on the role that we pushy offspring fulfil for our parents.